“The Kite Runner” Film: History and Cinematography


Marc Forster was recognized as a world-renowned professional director in 2000. The reason for this recognition was his psychological horror film All Together. It is worth noting that he worked not only on the direction of this film, Forster also was a screenwriter. Marc Forster was born on January 27, 1969, in Germany. Forster is a German director and screenwriter, known for many works (Bordwell 2). He spent majority of his youth in Switzerland, where he graduated from the University Montana Zugerberg. Already in his youth, Forster knew that he would become a director because he had many original ideas that he wanted to embody on television.

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In 1990, Forster decided to move to the United States, where he entered the New York University and began to do his cinematography. Marc Forster was recognized as a world-renowned professional director in 2000. The reason for this recognition was his psychological horror film All Together (Bordwell 3). It was after this work that he began making his outstanding films. The next significant work of this director was the film adaptation of the book by Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner (2007).

His approach was affected primarily by his views on the Afghan War. The studio did not restrict him, and it provided enough financing to develop and implement his ideas (Bordwell 4). Marc Forster is a highly flexible director in terms of genre because his two most outstanding movies are horror and drama. However, he can be considered as an Auteur, because his subjective involvement is present in every production stage of the film. Although Forster’s The Kite Runner is different from his other movies, it is a perfect representation of the director’s development (Bordwell 3). His career trajectory was significantly uplifted by showing the audience that he can illustrate highly controversial topics, such as Islamic radicalism, and war.

Historical Context

The historical context is the Soviet-Afghan War, where two boys are trapped in a falling nation. The main sociocultural factor is the hostility of Afghanistan towards non-Muslims, especially citizens under the Taliban’s propaganda. The main theme is war scenes by the eyes of little children, which transitions towards a peaceful American nation. The compare and contrast techniques were used to show the staggering difference among developed and developing counties (Asthappan 3).

In the introductory scene, the historical context of the movie is seen through the eyes of two boys (The Kite Runner 00:22:45). The Soviet-Afghan war lasted for more than nine years from December 1979 to February 1989. The rebel groups of the “mujahideen” fought against the Soviet Army and its Afghan government forces allied to it. From 850,000 to 1.5 million civilians were killed, millions of Afghans fled the country, mainly to Pakistan and Iran (Asthappan 3).

The historical background of the movie The Kite Runner started when the Soviet intelligence had evidence that Amin was attempting intercourse with Pakistan and China. On December 27, 1979, about 700 Soviet special forces captured the main buildings of Kabul and staged the storming of the presidential palace Taj Bek, during which Amin and his two sons were killed (Asthappan 7). Amin was replaced by a rival from another Afghan Communist faction, Babrak Karmal. He headed the “Revolutionary Council of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan” and requested additional Soviet assistance.

In January 1980, the foreign ministers of the 34 countries of the Islamic Conference approved a resolution demanding the “immediate, urgent and unconditional withdrawal of Soviet troops” from Afghanistan. The UN General Assembly, by 104 votes to 18, adopted a resolution protesting against Soviet intervention. US President Carter announced a boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics (Asthappan 8). Afghan militants began to undergo military training in neighboring Pakistan and China — and receive huge amounts of aid, funded primarily by the United States and the Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf. The CIA actively assisted Pakistan in conducting operations against the Soviet forces.

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The movie was photographed from the point of view of two boys. The visual themes, such as color was done in gray and grim tones to address the war. The color contrast was present to show the US as a more appealing nation than Afghanistan. Shape contrasts were not as outlined as figurative ones; however, they were shown in the American scenes.

The distinctive lighting scheme can be observed in the given movie. Forster is well-known for paying special attention towards light and darkness balance to accentuate the villains and heroes; thus, the war scenes were much darker. There two interesting shots and camera angles, such as over-the-shoulder in girlfriend meeting scene (The Kite Runner 01:02:58). This approach allows relating to the main character even more than before. The over-the-shoulder technique was used numerous times throughout the film.

Cinematography is often called mechanical or “not made by hands”, film and television are not only the latest, not only technical but also fixative arts. Any shot, any frame by its very existence, declares what it was (Sordano and Benedetto 67). However, the image, due to the fixative properties of photographic and cinematographic equipment, can offer only a copy of the subject, made in a special way. In this case, it is precisely the cinema that can be obtained in this case, which did not exist in nature before.

Before the invention and development of photography and cinema, the concept of an artistic image was always contrasted with the idea of a copy, a fixed identity, sometimes called a replica, perceived by visual perception (Sordano and Benedetto 68). Within the framework of psychology dealing with problems of visual perception, the question of how visual images formed as a result of understanding correlate with sensory input signals, whether internal representations of the world are identical to its physical properties, is explored.

These concepts are present throughout the movie The Kite Runner. The ideas stem from the fact that the internal representations of reality are not the same as reality itself, where they are not isomorphic. And although internal representation has some similarities with external reality, the process of converting sensory signals into information occurs in the light of previous experience (Sordano and Benedetto 69).

The psychological mechanisms that are responsible for guiding the visual focus are diverse. Memory plays a significant role in this process. The mind operates with an organized package of knowledge, which can be called an educational map. The use of such tools allows you to navigate the semantic space of the visible. This is the property of the person who’s the underlying motives is identified. The underlying concepts are critically important to consider, because they make the film highly accurate to its original source.


The rate and rhythm of cuts are in moderate amount because the fast pacing was only used in action and war scenes. The movie’s overall flow was medium with smooth transitions. The main shifts were present in the past and now scenes, where the main characters were remembering their childhood. These rhythms were used again in the film’s final scenes, where the main character attempts to rescue his friend’s son (The Kite Runner 01:42:12).

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The main style of editing is regular cutscene flow, where the primary character appears in the center of the camera. The cuts were done precisely where they were needed because transitions usually start with the small part, which expands to a bigger scene. The editing allowed to fully understand the timescale and time jumps, because the flow was smooth. It showed the drastic comparison between US and Afghanistan and how these two different political systems affect the surrounding environment and people. In my view, the West was shown as a peaceful and wealthy nation, whereas Afghanistan was illustrated as a wasteland.

The experience of presence in the movie is not an emotional state because it is non-evaluative, and we will not find an appropriate type of emotion in the classifications of emotions. It is also not a phenomenon of the cognitive sphere, such as a sensation, an image, and mental representation (Sordano and Benedetto 69). Images and ideas are an indirect reflection of reality while experiencing presence are immediate. With great reason, we can view the experience of existence as the realization of the state of an actualized integral subject in a situation, which coincides with the notion of installation in a sense.

On the other hand, it is important that the will is attributed to the whole-subject phenomena, where the intention is a psychological body that is a representative of the whole subject. Indeed, the will is the experience of relevance, in particular, the significance of the character in a specific situation, in certain circumstances (Sordano and Benedetto 68). That is, in the modality of the will, not only reflects the case but also conjugates the present as a real factor. Thus, the experience of presence is a manifestation of the installation and volitional states. This gives reason to believe that the experience of existence is a form of volitional self-awareness.

It is important to understand these concepts due to the fact that they make the movie The Kite Runner highly realistic. The experience of presence arises from reflection by the subject of its subjective manifestation as an event in reality, in particular, of its mental act as a fact. Thus, the experience of presence can be caused by the reflection of the law of perception and thus turning into a Cartesian thought event of understanding. Therefore, there is an illustration of just as a mechanism for the emergence of experience of presence and actualization of the will. Some authors regard this idea as a process correlative with reflection (Sordano and Benedetto 68). This makes it possible to make a certain psychological operationalization of the phenomenon of experiencing presence.

Sound Design/Music

The musical and sound rhythms were mostly calm and non-musical, but the scenes of escape and chase were accompanied by fast-paced music. Almost all of the sounds were diegetic because not many outside voiceovers and mood music was implemented (Schwartz). The rhythms were regularly revisited in the movie because the main character returns to his homeland. The thematic sound was no-sound scenes, where only sources of sound beats were objects of movement and voices. The overall music on the film serves as a dynamic accelerator of action because most of the scenes lack any background music.

Narrative Structure

The film can be divided into three narrative structures, which are childhood, American life, and return to the homeland. The main turning point happened when the main character decides to save his friend’s son by returning to Afghanistan. The narrative structure was not accompanied by any loud sounds and voiceovers and it supports the overall flow of the story by accentuating the realistic theme. This approach allows to develop a character background through dialogues and acting without use of any sound effects, which make the film calm and realistic.

First of all, it is necessary to distinguish between two types of relations between a cinematic object and reality or two types of cinematic realism. First, it is an imaginary “realism”, which is an attitude, when the purpose of cinema submits to the prevailing notion of the reality of one kind or another (Schwartz). This type of realism can also be called phantasmatic, since our very idea of ​​truth is always conditional, and the nature of the corresponding images is directly naive and uncritical (Schwartz). As an explanation, you can point to a very dependent realism of the genre cinema. A distinctive feature, for example, of the military cinema is a fairly stable canon of a realistic image.

The second type of relation of the cinematic object to reality can be described as analytical. Its essence is that the purpose of the image does not refer to any external reality, but only to the experience of vision, which made this image possible (Schwartz). The experience of imagination, in this case, is not due to any definite view of reality but is directly closed onto itself due to the self-reference, which is inherent in it (Schwartz). In turn, to conceive this experience means to report on what people see when they find out in this way, and not in any other way.

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The filmmaker’s major contribution to the world of cinema was the realistic no sound scene approach. The movie should be seen by people who are interested in the Afghan conflict. The film also shows the result of radicalism and Sharia law’s consequences. In the stoning scene, the audience can witness the trail scene according to this Islamic law, which is highly cruel and unjust (The Kite Runner 01:33:38). I liked the fact that the movie does not choose sides, and it attempts to be realistic as much as possible by not using background music. I did not like that the US was represented as a peaceful and heavenly place, which is not fully true.

Although the United States is a much better place to live than Afghanistan, both countries possess their flaws. This staggering difference in the movie slightly ruined the realistic mood. I learned that the no-sound scene could be powerful and interesting if it is shot through engaging angles and with good actors. The film allowed me to realize that although mainstream media demonizes the Islamic radicals, they are also victims of this agenda. The two boys were simply born in a falling nation and suffered severe consequences of conflict, which was not their fault.

Works Cited

Asthappan, Jibey. “The Cost of War: Weighing Civilian Losses in the Afghan War.” SAGE Open, vol. 1, no. 2, 2016, pp. 2-9.

Bordwell, David. “Review of Noël Burch’s “To the Distant Observer”.” Wide Angle, vol. 3, no. 4, 2014, pp. 1-5.

Forster, Marc, director. The Kite Runner. Paramount Classics, 2007.

Schwartz, David. “Sleep.” Reverse Shot. 2019. Web.

Sordano, Angela, and Nadia Benedetto. “Obituary: The Italian Group Analysis Between Dream and Cinematography: A Memory of Anna Maria Traveni.” Group Analysis, vol. 47, no. 3, 2014, pp. 67-69.

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